BY VENERANDA LANGA
NORTON MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) has sensationally claimed that the late Lands minister Perrance Shiri (pictured) confided in him that he was not involved in the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres, although he was commander of the dreaded Fifth Brigade which carried out the atrocities.
According to human rights groups, the army unit killed over 20 000 people in Matabeleland and Midlands regions, as then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe pursued Zpra dissidents plotting to topple his government.
Shiri succumbed to COVID-19 in July this year and was buried at the National Heroes Acre despite protests from pressure groups in Matabeleland angry over his role in the massacres.
But Mliswa told Parliament on Tuesday that Shiri confided in him that he was not given an opportunity to clear his name.
“He asked me ‘do you really think I was responsible for killing people in Matabeleland?’ I said, but you were the commander. He said ‘but would I command without taking instructions?’ I listened to him speak,” Mliswa said.
“He said, ‘I was never a general, there were commanders in the army and we worked through instructions.’ He said ‘I have never had an opportunity to defend my position to the public because I am a military person. I am very disciplined, Temba, but I work under instructions.”
Mliswa added: “He said, ‘unfortunately, those whom I work under and whose instructions I take are not prepared to stand by me and say, we give him instructions. We had an air force commander and an army commander and a Ministry of Defence and all that.’
“I said to him, but for as long as you do not give that side of the story, it would be difficult. He said, ‘unlike you, you are a civilian, I am a military person, discipline is critical,” Mliswa said.
The motormouth MP said Shiri said people should not point at one man over the Matabeleland massacres.
“So,why are we also not bringing all the other soldiers who killed people and say, why did you kill? We choose to say, because he was a commander in Matabeleland and he had other commanders above him, he is responsible,” he said.
Mliswa praised Shiri, describing him as a humble person who never abused his authority.
In his eulogy, he also revealed some intricate details about the former Airforce commander, saying that he once survived an assassination attempt and was a book worm.